Injuries and a squad full of talent means Brendan Rodgers is set to shuffle his pack for the visit of Aston Villa on Saturday. Ben Twelves takes a look at some more of the options available to the Liverpool manager.
Brendan Rodgers heads into the clash against Aston Villa with Daniel Sturridge unavailable due to a thigh injury attained in training with England and also the possibility of question marks over the fitness of Joe Allen, who is struggling with an ankle problem sustained on a woeful pitch in Andorra on Tuesday night.
The injury to Sturridge and potentially Allen – two key players in the team – mean that the Liverpool boss could face a number of decisions over his starting team for Saturday’s game against Villa with forced changes to personnel possibly impacting on the formation and set-up of the team.
BR: There will be changes during this busy schedule ahead, but not wholesale changes, we’ve got to keep the balance.
— This Is Anfield (@thisisanfield) September 11, 2014
An excellent summer transfer window means that the Reds are now well stocked with the numbers and quality for such problems, which has in turn opened up a number of options of real strength to the Ulsterman.
Huge talents such as Philippe Coutinho, Emre Can and Lazar Markovic all featured amongst the substitutes at White Hart Lane last time out illustrating perfectly the strength in depth now at Rodgers’ disposal, and the Brazilian magician and Serbian will be pushing for starting places on Saturday afternoon, although the German will miss out through injury.
With the Reds now looking slightly short of quality in attack following Sturridge’s injury, Fabio Borini, who came in for strong criticism from sections of the fan base for refusing to leave Anfield in the summer transfer window, could become involved in the squad to boost striking alternatives, especially if Allen fails to recover in time.
Regardless of what shape Rodgers chooses to play, the back five picks itself after picking up the Reds first clean sheet of the season. Despite one or two nervy moments in north London two weeks ago, defensively Liverpool were an improvement on what was produced in the 3-1 defeat at the Etihad.
Therefore, Mignolet would continue in goal, and the back four would line up with Javier Manquillo at right back, Dejan Lovren and Mamadou Sakho at centre back and Alberto Moreno at left back, with Kolo Toure and Jose Enrique on the bench as Glen Johnson and Martin Skrtel are still suffering with injury.
In midfield is where Rodgers could be forced to make his first change with Philippe Coutinho ready in waiting both options if Allen fails to make the match. The fixture being at Anfield and Coutinho operating better from a deep midfield role with his ability to pick passes and unlock teams from deep would see him a strong option to partner Steven Gerrard and Henderson in the midfield, showing perfectly the strength in depth the squad now possesses.
The change of shape to a three man attack would see Raheem Sterling and Mario Balotelli occupy two of the spaces naturally, with one shirt left up for grabs. Rickie Lambert could come into the team with Rodgers possibly opting to play Balotelli slightly wider as he’s spoken of before, but Lazar Markovic, who has impressed twice in two substitute appearances so far should be given the nod on the right side of a three.
If Allen is fit to play, he should remain in the team and Coutinho on the bench, handing Markovic his first start in a front three alongside Sterling and Balotelli, giving a Liverpool an extremely exciting attack.
With Coutinho and Markovic come into the starting XI in place of Allen and Sturridge, in a 4-3-3 formation, Brendan Rodgers’ starting team should look like this on Saturday:
If Allen is fit to start however, he deserves to keep his place in the team and Rodgers should shape his team up like so:
An excellent result against Tottenham two weeks ago put Rodgers’ men back on track and once more the Reds will have to produce another good performance if they are to overcome Paul Lambert’s Aston Villa, who have proven to be a tough test for Rodgers’ side at Anfield in recent seasons.
As long as the team perform, the result should come.